A bit more about the two travelers and their adventures in Coober Pedy. Let us take a step back and start again.
Not being all that brain wise the two boys had decided to drive all the way up to the centre of Australia, through miles and miles of desert and nothingness and take a few photos. The general idea was to find spots no one else had seen and come home and sell the photos to someone who made calendars.
So off they went one autumn thunder morning with a little money and a packet of Kool. They stopped one of their sister’s place in Adelaide and had a shower and a shave and a decent meal and set off the next morning. A hundred miles north of Port Augusta they pulled off the road into the scrub and ate something and curled up on the ground and went to sleep. Middle of the night an almighty thundering screaming rattling cacophony of sound ripped them out of sleep and threw them into heart bursting panic. It was just up the road and heading straight for them – and they had no idea. It took about five minutes to arrive. Three trailers on a road train full of cattle for the butcher shops of Adelaide. It must have been doing a hundred. And then it was gone.
There was a difference in scale between the desert and the city. The nights were blacker until the moon came up and then brighter. The stars were magic and beyond comprehension and the road trains were pretty big and pretty loud and scared the daylight out of strangers.
One evening the manager came and asked if he could clear the table as some of the people wanted to play cards. They didn’t play cards but we watched.
The very next night one of the boys thought it looked easy so he sat in on the game. He had about twenty pounds and thought it would be fun to see how far he could go. But it didn’t work out like that. After an hour he was up by about two hundred pounds and after another hour he was up close to a thousand. Now to put it into some kind of perspective he had just left a job in Melbourne that paid eleven pounds two shillings and five pence a week. On the table, in front of him was a bit less than two years’ salary.
Then came the time he wanted to ‘raise’ and he was a bit short. He asked if he could drop in a piece of opal he had dug up. Everyone looked at it and the manager, or referee took it over to the guy who valued and bought rough opal and he said it was certainly enough to cover the bet.
While he was away the fellow who had nearly blown his head off with his .22 rifle wandered over. We had become quite good mates. He reminded the boy that winning was not actually a good idea. He mentioned things like “Accidental Homicide” and he thought it would be a good idea if he started to lose a bit. That wasn’t quite as easy at it seemed. An hour later he had about fifteen thousand pounds in front of him. Twenty-five years salary.
He looked up and the fellow with the .22 rifle just shook his head and his Hungarian chess playing friend made the sign of the cross and very soon after that he had a most amazing run of bad luck. And he lost it all.
When the game was ended the guy who had won came over. He was a big Yugoslav bastard and he walked up and gave both of the boys a huge bear hug.
“You played a good game boy. More better you play chess with Oscar.”
Then he handed him the opal he had used earlier.
“You have this back boy. You play a good game. More better you keep something.”
So he did keep something. He started with a little opal and he kept it.
While they were there they experienced a different kind of game. The manager of the Dago Club received a phone call from a colleague in Port Augusta. A car load of men from the Department of Taxation was on the way.
Immediately the word was spread. A quick general meeting was called and all the miners arrived.
The two boys sat amazed. The names of most of the miners were placed in a hat and ten names were pulled out. The ten named miners went off to their mines and all the remaining miners got into their cars and headed off to Andamooka. Andamooka is another opal mining town.
Many of the miners did not have their names included because for many different reasons they did not want to be “found”. These men were lost and they knew they were lost and they wanted to stay lost.
When the Taxmen arrived the ten men sat and honestly and fully declared all their earnings for the last twelve months. The taxmen then returned to Adelaide. When the coast was clear all the other miners returned. Another general meeting was held and the “pie” was cut so that all the miners paid the ten miners’ tax. A few weeks later the taxmen went to Andamooka. There they found a similar number of miners who honestly and completely declared their earnings. Back in Coober Pedy the men from both towns had a fairly enjoyable time at the “Taxation Party”.